Minstrel seal

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Spielmannsdichtung or Spielmannsepik is a traditional name for a small group of medieval narrative seals . As far as one can date the origin of the texts, they come from the second half of the 12th century .

These are the works:


The early German studies coined the term Spielmannsepik in order to obtain a category for the five long texts that cannot be sorted into existing principles of order. From the more burlesque and less intellectual taste that these adventure stories are supposed to have compared to the courtly novel , it was concluded that they were created by wandering minstrels (see also Fahrendes Volk , Vagantendichtung ). Both the choice of material and the specific text design neither reveal an alleged connection nor do they correspond to the assumed criteria. The term minstrel sepic is therefore no longer scientifically tenable and corresponds more to a taste classification of the Germanists of the 19th century, who set courtly novels as a standard.

Today one suspects with more right the poets in a similar literary and literary circle as the poets of the early court literature . The contestable term “ Spielmanns epik” will continue to be used, but should no longer be understood literally.

Generic characteristics

Characteristic of all these stories is the mixture of heroic, historical and legendary, coarse and courtly features. Popular fairy tale and legend motifs (courtship, kidnapping, disguise) are arranged with a desire for the exotic (oriental adventure) and often drastic comedy. This, the anonymity of the authors and the narrow written distribution signal that the reading material was rather entertaining and unrepresentative for a less educated aristocratic audience.

In order to justify the genre musician poetry independently of the dubious term of the minstrel, various criteria have been proposed that should connect the so-called works:

  • Date of origin towards the end of the 12th century
  • Entertainments based on historical events, people, etc.
  • Anonymity of the genre; the authors are usually not known
  • preferred motives (foreignness, kidnapping)
  • Mixing of courtly, legendary, historical and heroic elements, also often fairy tale and legend motifs
  • Metrics and rhyme tend to be handled freely, verses of different lengths, irregular rhythm
  • clumsy, objective language
  • frequent repetition of single phrases
  • few and simple linguistic and stylistic means

These criteria are highly controversial in research, as they are constructed to summarize the five epics under one term. Critics therefore reject both the term minstrel sepic and a special genre for the five epics. They emphasize strong differences in the works that could hardly be standardized. In the absence of any other categorization, one usually speaks of the “so-called minstrel sepen” or uses quotation marks to express a distance from the term.


  • Michael Curschmann: Spielmannsepik - ways and results of research 1907-1965. Stuttgart 1968.
  • Gretel and Wolfgang Hecht: German minstrel poetry of the Middle Ages. Leipzig 1977 (2nd edition under the title German Spielmannserzählungen des Mittelalters. Ibid 1982).
  • Walter Johannes Schröder: Spielmannsepik. Stuttgart 1967.